We’re #1: 2012 Election Was An Election Of Firsts For AAPIs

November 8th, 2012 | 2 comments | Posted by Jen

This year’s election was an election of firsts. Not least of all for our people, who are often left out of election and post-election talk altogether. A brief recap:

MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI) becomes the first Asian American woman elected to the Senate, and the first woman senator representing Hawaii. She’s also the first Senator born in Japan, and she’s Buddhist. Plus her name is Mazie–from the Japanese “Meiji,” pronounced “May-zee”–which officially gives her the coolest name in Congress.

TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL), who will represent the 8th Congressional District of Illinois, becomes the first Thai American and the first disabled woman veteran elected to Congress. She’s fluent in Thai, Indonesian, and before she was deployed to Iraq in 2004, she was pursuing her Ph.D. She was a US Army combat helicopter pilot in Iraq when the Black Hawk she was co-piloting was hit by an RPG, causing damage to her right arm and the loss of both her legs. Now, thanks to prosthetics, she is fully mobile. So yes, she is more badass than anyone you know.

GRACE MENG (D-NY), from New Yorks’s 6th Congressional District, becomes the first Asian American to represent her state in Congress. A little perspective: Meng is Chinese American. The first Chinese immigrated to NY in 1858.

MARK TAKANO (D-CA), from California’s 41st Congressional District, becomes the first openly gay person of color in Congress . Takano was born and raised in Riverside, CA, and both of his parents were interned during World War II. A graduate of Harvard, he was a public school teacher for 23 years. He first ran for Congress in 1992 and lost by only 519 votes. When he ran again in 1994, he was attacked by his political opponents because of his sexual orientation. According to The Advocate, Takano’s opponents said he had a “‘homosexual agenda’ and sent pink political mailers that questioned whether as a congressman Takano could represent the people of Riverside (a part of California’s right-leaning Inland Empire region) or would he really represent ‘San Francisco?’” In 2012, however, Takano has said that “not a single voter” asked him about being gay.

31 year-old TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), who will represent Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District–Mazie Hirono’s former seat–is a study in firsts. She’s the first Pacific Islander woman and first Hindu elected to Congress. She was previously Hawaii’s youngest state representative, elected in 2002 at the age of 21, and the youngest woman in the US to be elected to a state legislature. According to the LA Times, at 23, Gabbard was Hawaii’s first elected official to voluntarily resign to serve our country. (Gabbard’s a member of the Hawaii National Guard and completed two tours of duty in the Middle East.) In January, as Jezebel points out, Gabbard will take her oath of office over a Bhagavad Gita instead of a Bible.

On Wednesday, Mike Honda (D-CA) declared:

Today is a first for Congress. The next Congress will see more Asian American and Pacific Islander members of Congress than ever before. As chair emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, this is everything I’ve worked to create and I’m thrilled to see Congress more diverse than the day I started. That goes for the more Hispanic American 113th Congress, the first openly gay senator in history, and the first Asian American woman in the Senate too. Congress is slowly, but surely, starting to better represent America.

Today is also a voting first. Having traveled the country during this election, getting out the Asian American and Pacific Islander vote in swing states like Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia, I know that we witnessed the highest voter turnout ever among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. We moved the dial of democracy forward and more minorities voted than ever before.”

And while post-election everyone’s talking about the Latino vote being crucial to Obama’s victory (which it was), it turns out Asians voted for Obama at an even slightly higher percentage–73%–than Latinos. Overall, people of color voted overwhelmingly Democratic, so let that be a lesson to you, G-O-P…emphasis on “OLD.”

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2 Responses to “We’re #1: 2012 Election Was An Election Of Firsts For AAPIs”

  1. vancity_canuck says:

    Pfffffsst. So not impressed.

    Vivienne Poy entered Canada’s senate in 1998. She’s still there. Mazie’s over a decade behind.

    Sophia Leung got elected into Parliament representing Vancouver in 1997.

    Meanwhile, Jenny Kwan got into Cabinet in 1998.

    Keep up with the times female Asian-Americans. You’re advancing too slow :P Your Canadian counterparts are far more go-getting. Soooo behind the times.

  2. Cindy says:

    I would like to say something about the negative comment above, but would rather cheer the successes of this year.

    I’m especially happy about Tammy Duckworth. Listening to her opponent berate her military service was disgusting. She is badass.

    All of these candidates are good for America. Good for us for electing them.

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